Stoney-faced Balotelli ends Premier League goal drought
11 February 2015, 09:12
Liverpool - After seven months, 14 appearances and 48 shots, Liverpool's Mario Balotelli finally scored a Premier League goal and it proved a precious strike to clinch a 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday.
The Italy striker, who has endured a miserable start to his Anfield career since joining from AC Milan in August, ended his burdensome barren run and snatched all three points with an 83rd minute toe-poke from close range at Anfield.
Not that you would have known the importance of his effort from the Italian's stoney-faced celebration, or his swift disappearance down the tunnel at full time.
While this is far from a complete reversal in fortunes for Balotelli, who only came off the bench in the 74th minute, it may go some way to convincing manager Brendan Rodgers that he could be a useful asset in the final few months of the season.
That would be an improvement on recent weeks when Rodgers was openly questioning the the striker's commitment to the cause, challenging him to show in training that he was worth a place in the side.
Having not even been on the bench for Saturday's Merseyside derby with Everton, Balotelli came on after Liverpool had twice taken the lead against Spurs through Lazar Markovic and a Steven Gerrard penalty, only to be pegged back by goals from Harry Kane and Moussa Dembele.
He owed his goal to the sort of clever movement in the box that he has so often failed to produce this season.
Before Adam Lallana drilled the ball across the goal, Balotelli shaped to run to the near post before drifting behind Tottenham defender Eric Dier and tapping home.
It was his first league strike since he netted for Manchester City against Wigan Athletic in November 2012.
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With Rodgers dashing off to catch a plane after the match, it was left to assistant Colin Pascoe to give Balotelli a pat on the back.
"Mario Balotelli has been working hard in training and for the last couple of weeks he has been ill so it's great that he scored the winner," he said.
The striker's contribution could prove critical in the battle for a top-four finish and Champions League qualification as defeat would have left seventh-placed Liverpool six points off fourth with only 13 matches left to play.
Their next two league games are crucial encounters against Southampton and Manchester City when Balotelli is likely to find himself back on the bench with Daniel Sturridge having returned to fitness and making his first start since August.